Unexpected Character

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"I get a lot of new character requests from all over the world, and there are quite an array of Nintendo characters. But I can say, pretty much no one imagined this character would join the battle."
Masahiro Sakurai on the inclusion of Wii Fit Trainer, Super Smash Bros.

Normally when time comes for a sequel or adaptation of a franchise, you can have a pretty good idea of who to expect in the returning cast. The Hero, The Lancer, the Ensemble Darkhorse... no one is surprised by their return. However, creators may want to shake things up and include less obvious characters. They could be a One-Scene Wonder, someone who had succumbed to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, or simply a Living Prop, or even someone from outside the franchise.

In video games, particularly Mascot Fighters, Kart Racers, and other Massive Multiplayer Crossovers, this can also include characters from games that were obscure or never left their home country, or games whose genre puts them outside that game's purview. Ironically common examples of the latter two include characters from a nonviolent game (or with a nonviolent role in the game) appearing as combatants, or a pilot/driver stepping out of their machine and showing they're just as competent on foot, if not moreso.

Sometimes these character choices are praised, bringing in a previously unknown character to recent audiences, but other times the choice can be seen as a gimmick to increase sales. Very often, it can increase interest if not sales in the unexpected addition, which is actually pretty sound business sense.

Due to the ease of slipping in outside characters in a Fighting Game (both in terms of mechanics and plot), Guest Fighter can be considered a particularly common subtrope.

Remember, Examples Are Not Recent.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece:
    • No one had expected Robin to join the Straw Hats. Granted, she had helped Luffy and betrayed Crocodile but it made her more of a wild card and after the battle, she had disappeared. Then just as the crew leaves Alabasta, Robin appears out of nowhere and requests to Luffy to join which he nonchalantly agrees. Added to that is that throughout the entire Baroque Works arc, Vivi had been played up as the potential next member of the Straw Hats, until she turned down the offer to stay behind and rebuild Alabasta right before Robin joined.
    • Most people wrote Bellamy out as dead, and it's not hard to see why, seeing as his boss is Doflamingo and he went and pissed the guy off by losing to Luffy. Come chapter 704, not only is he still alive and still under Doflamingo's employment, he's also a participant in the tournament for the Mera Mera no Mi. Also, the appearance of Jesus Burgess was likewise something nobody could have seen coming. Later on, the supposedly long-dead Sabo has shown up.
  • Pokémon:
    • After the Advanced Generation series ended, it was general consensus that Wallace, Gym Leader in Pokemon Ruby And Sapphire and Champion in Emerald, was another addition to the many game characters that got Adapted Out in the anime. To everyone's surprise, he shows up in the middle of the Diamond and Pearl series as part of Dawn's story, hosting a special Pokémon Coordinator tournament that bears his name.
    • The Best Wishes series has Clair from Pokemon Gold And Silver showing up. Sure she and the majority of the Generation I-IV Gym Leaders show up at the Pokémon World Tournament in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, but that's more an optional encounter.
    • Ash had Charizard rejoining his team, and not just for a big match like his previous returns, sticking around for the rest of the Best Wishes series. A couple of the other Pokémon Ash has captured could also qualify. For example, no one was expecting him to catch Muk, since in its debut, it actually received the least amount of focus out of all the Pokémon that appeared in that episode, only appearing briefly in a couple of scenes.
    • The Mewtwo from Genesect and the Legend Awakened is something of a double whammy - few were expecting Mewtwo to return, but no one was expecting it to be a different individual altogether, due to the backstory (and the logistics thereof) of the first one. To quite a lot of fans, this was far from a pleasant surprise as a result.
    • Clement's fourth Pokémon is Luxio - something no one saw coming. First off, it's a 'Mon from a generation not being actively promoted, and secondly, it's not even in the Kalos Dex (all three of them!).
  • Gundam Build Fighters:
  • Gundam Build Fighters Try continues this trend with the Winning Gundam revealed to be a modified Captain Gundam. And also, Domon Kasshu.
  • Continuing the Gundam examples, the manga MSV-R: The Return of Johnny Ridden features the return of yet another major character, namely Yazan "I'm Gonna Violate You" Gable.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, poor Bakura, after having been left out of every filler arc, spinoff manga, miniseries, and movie ever, finally gets to put in an appearance (and apparently as a major secondary character!). Even the official website is surprised.
    In addition to Yugi and Kaiba you will be seeing a lot of familiar faces on screen – characters previewed included Joey, Tristan, Tea, and even Bakura[.]
  • Who where expected to see Captain Ginyu return in Dragon Ball Super's adaptation of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’?

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fic 
  • An odd example from Calvin and Hobbes: The Series - the series finale "Black Rain" features none other than Slender Man as a major character. This has caused some rather mixed reactions from reviewers.
  • In Justice Society of Japan, given how Lelouch Lamperogue appears early on one would probably assume that Zero would be one of the first characters from that series to join the team. WROOOOONG. Shirley Fenette joins instead.
  • In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, outside the Original Characters, all characters introduced are from Kamen Rider series. Hence it comes to a surprise when Yumeria Moegi appears in A Month of Sundays, having been fired and in search of a job.
  • Child of the Storm delights in this (something helped by the author appearing to have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of Marvel) but in particular, Jack O'Neill as the uncle of Carol Danvers? Harry befriending a young Jean-Paul Beaubier a.k.a. Northstar and Diana of Themyscira?
  • Mega Man Recut has plans to include every Robot Master in the series, and many appearing Robot Masters were unexpected.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, nobody expected the Mega Crew's leader to be Tiesel Bonne.
  • Imperfect Metamorphosis including PC-98 characters isn't unexpected, as many Touhou fanfictions do that. What was unexpected was that nearly all of them show up eventually, including really obscure ones like Kotohime, Rika and Konngara (the former of which plays a major role). And it was really unexpected when Rin Satsuki turns out to be a main character, as she was never in the games in the first place.
  • The first episode of Fantasy Kaleidoscope looks to be a straight retelling of Perfect Cherry Blossom, until going Off the Rails at the end with the appearance of Sanae three games early.
  • In the Danny Phantom fanfic series, Facing The Future Series, many readers were surprised to see the return of the ghost half that Tucker wished for.
  • In My Immortal, when Ebony is trapped in the past, Marty McFly, or rather, morti mcfli, shows up out of nowhere to bring her back to the present.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, a Holocron loaded with the Force ghosts of canon characters pops up—It Makes Sense in Context, but nobody saw that coming. Especially since the whole point was that "A long time ago..." had been taken extremely literally to the point where known Star Wars was considered ancient history.
  • Weiss Reacts:
  • In one Harry Potter fanfic, Hermione reveals halfway through the story that she is actually adopted. Her real father is... Bruce Wayne. With no prior indication whatsoever that this was a crossover.
  • Moonstuck having Changelings show up was somewhat unexpected, as the comic had started before they were introduced in the show. The real shocker however was the Big Bad being Discord, as not only was he the first character from the show other than Luna to appear, he also completely destroyed the common assumptions about the timeline (pretty much everyone had assumed that the comic was a metaphor for Luna's Enemy Within struggle with Nightmare Moon, not Luna and Celestia finding the Elements of Harmony.
  • The Ranma One Half fanfic Heian Conglin is basically a darker version of Jumanji where Ranma and Shampoo are the players. Early on, Tokyo is evacuated due the game's jungle occupying the whole city, Ranma, Shampoo and Happosai (a past player) are trying to win the game... And then Panthyose Taro shows up from nowhere to demand that Happosai changes his name.
  • Webwork has a couple of examples of this, as no one expected oneshot Villains of the Week like Nivor and Origami to show up.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Used towards the end of the Animorphs series. Arbon and Loren, two minor characters who hadn't been seen in years and had little reason to return again, both made surprise reappearances. Weirder still, while Arbron's fate was neatly tied up in the epilogue, Loren wasn't addressed at all, making her a weird case of this character type meeting What Happened to the Mouse?
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Lots of unexpected characters pop up in the Omen of the Stars finale The Last Hope, such as Redtail, Raggedstar and Mosskit. But almost nobody was expecting Brambleberry's cameo appearance at the beginning where she is one of the first cats to ever successfully give Jayfeather a lecture.
    • When Dawn of the Clans, a prequel series dealing with the founding and early days of the five Clans was announced, lots of theories were made about appearances from the Clan Founders (Thunder, River Ripple, Wind Runner, Tall Shadow, and Clear Sky), original medicine cats (Cloudspots, Dapplepelt, Mothflight, and Pebbleheart), and a few other characters mentioned in the field guides (Gorsefur, Owleyes, Lightningtail, etc.). However, almost nobody predicted Graywing the Wise (a character whose sole mention in the series beforehand was being credited with creating a few WindClan battle strategies in Battles of the Clans) showing up, let alone his role as the (initial) main character of the arc. To a lesser extent, few expected Half Moon and Lion's Roar to appear in the arc, but they ended up being supporting characters in The Sun Trail.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Watson (though not named, it's obviously them) appear in a segment of a Final Destination novel in Victorian Britain.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin has a tendency to take minor or antagonistic characters and make them point-of-view characters in later books.
  • In the fifth book of Venus Prime, Sir Randolph Mays, the insufferable Pompous Political Pundit who seems so hellbent upon exposing the Free Spirit, turns out to be William Laird, the leader of the Free Spirit.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had the now rather infamous scene in which Father Christmas pops up out of nowhere to give the Pevensie siblings their Christmas presents. Despite being set in a fantasy world, his appearance in Narnia is still a little jarring, and it's worth saying that he's never again seen or mentioned in any of the other books.
  • Gaunts Ghosts likes to reintroduce minor characters or ones that have otherwise been Put on a Bus to play major roles much later. Sanian reappears in Sabbat Martyr, Sturnn reappears in Traitor General, and Agun Soric reappears in Only In Death. It also works in reverse for the author's other books set earlier in the timeline. Heldane and Lilith have minor roles in Eisenhorn and Ravenor respectively, both before they've achieved the rank of Inquisitor.
  • Though it's hardly a surprise these days, the original readers of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe would not have been expecting an appearance from Robin Hood, who spends the first half of the book under an assumed name (back then, "Locksley" would not have been immediately recognizable as one of his aliases).
  • The Whoniverse book Time Lord Fairy Tales pulls this off twice by springing a surprise character on the reader well after a story is underway and the protagonists' plight has been established; moreover, they go on to play supporting roles in the action, albeit important ones. In "Helena and the Beast", it's the Twelfth Doctor; in "The Grief Collector", it's the Tenth. Also, while many familiar Whoniverse villains turn up in these Twice Told Tales, the presence of The Nimon, from one of the classic series' campiest serials in "Jack and the Wormhole" will likely surprise those who don't remember their televised appearance and recognize the new story's similar setup.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Smallville is a major offender. While sometimes the cool and unexpected DCU characters who have never appeared in live action television may be awesome to watch and being a Long Runner may justify some of it, other times it is out of nowhere and somewhat jarring when they were never involved with Superman before. It reached an all time high after season eight in attempts to restore plummeting audience figures.
    • The Persuader, whose sole purpose is to teleport in, smash a crystal to make Clark's life harder, then getting flattened by the Legion who sent him back to the future in the matter of seconds.
    • Some of the Injustice League. Parasite is a long-time enemy, Livewire is from Superman: The Animated Series, but Neutron, a lesser known character from the comics, definitely counts. His role on the show was so minor, he doesn't even have a page on the wiki.
    • Some members of the Justice Society is slightly more well-known, but they are usually in an alternate dimension or something.
    • Booster Gold. Television Without Pity sums it up nicely.
    "With just three episodes left till the series finale, let's spend some time getting to know Booster Freaking Gold."
    • In the second to last episode, "Prophecy", Black Manta, Captain Cold and Solomon Grundy.
  • Merlin:
    • At the end of series 4, Tristan and Isolde were introduced. It felt a little random considering a) they bore no resemblance whatsoever to their legendary counterparts, b) they didn't actually contribute much to the plot, and c) they disappeared entirely after their two episode appearance (Isolde being Killed Off for Real and Tristan disappearing without explanation).
    • The Grand Finale saw the return of Balinor, Merlin's father who hadn't been seen since the end of season two (and had been killed off in the same episode he was introduced).
    • In season three a character calling himself Taliesin has a minor role; an odd inclusion given that the legendary/historical Taliesin is only tangentially related to Arthurian legend.
  • Once Upon a Time is about "story book characters," which the creators consider to be all fictional characters, but the show puts a heavy emphasis on Fairy Tale ones, particularly Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. So it surprised quite a few people when Dr. Frankenstein showed up. And the last few seconds of Season 3 suddenly introduce Queen Elsa from Frozen (although admittedly Elsa is an adaptation of the title character of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Snow Queen).
  • Once Upon a Time in Wonderland does something similar; upon hearing it was about Wonderland, who would ever expect Jafar as a main character?
  • Doctor Who:
    Eighth Doctor: I'm a doctor. Though probably not the one you were expecting!
    • And in "The Day of the Doctor", it wasn't much of a surprise when all the past Doctors show up... but when Twelve makes an appearance, a month before the Christmas special where he was supposed to debut, that turned quite a few heads. On top of that, Tom Baker makes a surprise appearance at the end as the Curator.
    • The end credit stinger in the Series 8 finale "Death in Heaven", by way of teasing the 2014 Christmas special, has Santa Claus entering the TARDIS!
    • The production team can pull this off all the time these days by not listing important characters and actors on pre-released cast lists and only crediting them on the episode itself!
    • Big Finish Doctor Who:
      • "Zagreus" has the Third Doctor appear through Stock Footage.
      • "The Light at the End" similarly features the first three Doctors via voice impersonators.
      • Davros again, at the very end of the Divergent arc.
  • Da Vinci's Demons has the titular character meeting none other than Vlad the Impaler (a.k.a. Dracula).
  • Power Rangers Megaforce has the appearance of the Gosei Sentai Dairanger costumes outside of Kibaranger (who was our White Ranger), along with the assumption that the costumes of the series from Himitsu Sentai Goranger to Choujin Sentai Jetman are just alien powers that weren't brought to Earth.
  • 24: Live Another Day has Cheng Zhi as the main antagonist. Although fans were expecting some familiar faces to show up other than Jack, Chloe, Audrey, and James Heller, he was genuinely the last person anyone was expecting to see.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., continuing the tradition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These include minor comic characters like Deathlok, Graviton, Lorelei, Blizzard, Blackout, and some of The Inhumans, most notably Mister Hyde and Quake, who was main character Skye all along.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim has a completely standalone villain for its final episode. It is indeed someone from the past, but it being Kougane, the Big Bad of the summer movie, came right out of nowhere.
  • Supergirl (2015) combines this with Not His Sled, as the Hank Henshaw we're introduced to turns out to be the Martian Manhunter in disguise rather than a cyborg supervillain.
    • Though it was announced beforehand, those familiar with canon were probably surprised that Non would appear as a major villain, sans his usual boss Zod. (And this is before he's reduced to Dumb Muscle.)

    Music 
  • Large-scale tours and festivals are bound to have this. Obviously everyone will know the headlining act, but when an unsigned band makes the line-up, people tend to scratch their heads (especially if they play the main-stage). For instance, Download Fest 2011, main stage with the likes of Def Leppard, System of a Down, Linkin Park and... The Pretty Reckless?
  • Mass-artist compilations fall into this from time to time.
  • In a media crossover-example, Rhythm Games probably get this sort of reaction when they announce the new setlist for their next title, such as with Rock Band 3 ("The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John and... Phoenix?"note ).
  • One such example is Just Dance, in which Top 40 tunes by artists such as Katy Perry, One Direction and Nicki Minaj co-exist alongside the likes of the Tetris theme, the William Tell Overture, and the Hatsune Miku cover of Ievan Polkka.
  • Rapper B.o.B. often has this with his featured artists, which have included Hayley Williams of Paramore, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and Taylor Swift.
  • Kanye West's albums usually have at least one.
    • The College Dropout had Jamie Foxx, poet J.Ivy and was introduced by Bernie Mac (playing Kanye's high school principal).
    • Late Registration had both Mac and Foxx, but also included Lupe Fiasco (his appearance on "Touch the Sky" was his mainstream breakthrough), Adam Levine of Maroon Five, and, perhaps most surprisingly, given Kanye's mentor and boss Jay-Z was feuding with him at the time, Nas on "We Major".
    • Graduation had Chris Martin of Coldplay.
    • 808s and Heartbreak had two of Kanye's previous collaborators who few expected to fit with the album's style, namely rappers Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne.
    • My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had Elton John, La Roux, Fergie (of the Black Eyed Peas), Chris Rock, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver (although the last two are only unexpected because at the time few had heard of them or knew what to expect).
    • Watch the Throne had fucking Otis Redding! And Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously). And (although she is definitely still alive) Elly Jackson of La Roux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame.
    • Cruel Summer had most of its' supporting cast like this - R. Kelly, Ma$e, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef...
    • Yeezus had King Louie and Assassin.
    • Kanye is also an Unexpected Character on other people's works. Few expected his collaborations with 30 Seconds to Mars, Katy Perry or Madonna.
  • Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaborated for the Collision Course mash-up. Few could've expected one of the biggest rappers in the world working with one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
  • Rapper A$AP Rocky's debut 'Long-Live-A$AP' featured Drake, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and... Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine).
  • Childish Gambino's "Real Estate" suddenly features an ending rap outro by... Tina Fey.
  • Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" featured Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester.
  • Drake's "All Me" includes an introduction by... Aziz Ansari.
  • Nine Inch Nails turned some heads when the guest list for Hesitation Marks included Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
  • For some appearances in 1994 (including on Saturday Night Live) Tom Petty's drummer was Dave Grohl, previously of Nirvana. Since that time Grohl has collaborated with many musicians from Petty's generation but at the time it must have been an unexpected lineup.
  • Tech N9ne and Serj Tankian had a very unusual - if compelling - collaboration.
  • Within Temptation's album Hydra featues, of all people, Xzibit as a guest artist.
  • Queens of the Stone Age had Julian Casablancas guest on Era Vulgaris and Elton FREAKING John of all people appear on their newest album. The results are actually awesome in both cases.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack, curated by Lorde, features mainly mordern female electronic/pop vocalists such as herself along with CHVRCHES, Charli XCX, Tove Lo, Ariana Grande, Bat For Lashes, Tinashe, HAIM, and... Grace Jones? Also rappers Q-Tip and Pusha-T appear in Stromae's "Meltdown" alongside Lorde and HAIM for an odd-yet-compelling collaboration. Also featured, perhaps most surprisingly of all given Lorde's feud with Diplo at the time, was Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande with "All My Love".
  • Few could've expected Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar to ever collaborate on a song together, but indeed they did in former's song "Bad Blood".
  • GaMetal has remixed some pretty weird songs, for example, there's a medley of tunes from Bionic Commando and, even stranger, the Final Boss theme from McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure of all things. Fittingly, the latter one was done as an April Fools' Day special, but it is a real song.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE's annual Royal Rumble pretty much always features Unexpected Characters in various forms. You're pretty much guaranteed to see one or two returning Legends making a one-off appearance (e.g. Honky Tonk Man in 2000, Diesel\Kevin Nash in 2011 and 2014), there are bound to be one or two main roster wrestlers making an unannounced return (e.g. John Cena in 2008, Edge in 2010), and every now and then there are entrants who are unexpected because they generally don't compete against the main male roster (e.g. Beth Phoenix in 2010, El Torito in 2014). Retired or semi-retired wrestlers serving as ringside commentators for the Rumble are sometimes unexpectedly entered into the match, usually resulting in their returning to the announce booth once they're eliminated (e.g. Jerry Lawler in 1996 and 2012, Michael Cole in 2012, JBL in 2014). One of the most unexpected (and bemoaned) characters in Rumble history was Drew Carey in the 2001 match. However, arguably the most shocking (or at the very least, surreal) entry, despite the countless rumors, reports, and even a statement from the TNA website all but outright telling us it would happen, was the debut of AJ Styles at the 2016 Royal Rumble in Orlando.
  • Intense Wrestling Inc was the only promotion operating in Macaela Mercedes's hometown of Cincinnati Ohio and announced ahead of time that it would be booking talent from Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, so when she made her debut near the end of 2002 and was matched against La Tigresa, a wrestler she knew nothing about besides being from Puerto Rico and she was caught off guard. Even if they had mentioned wrestlers from Puerto Rico, Tigresa wouldn't have been on most people's radar stateside given women's wrestling had virtually vanished from the island following her arrest four years prior for a smuggling case expected to keep her behind bars for decades.

    Video Games 
  • Street Fighter X Tekken includes Poison, and exclusive to the Sony platforms are Cole MacGrath and Sony Japan mascots Toro and Kuro.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up has characters described as "Characters you know in addition to ones you wouldn't expect." True, everybody knew that Shredder, April, Casey, and the title characters would appear, but not an unnamed Foot Soldier or an alien in a battle suit that was a one-shot character from the 2003 show (as an Expy for Krang from the 80s show). And for established characters, there's the Fugitoid and Night Watcher (who has a completely different gameplay from regular Raphael). Finally, there are Raving Rabbids.
    • Excluding the Turtles and Shredder, almost the entire cast of the SNES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters is really obscure. War is a very minor bad guy in the Archie comic book series, while Aska is an Original Generation character. The Genesis version had Original Generation Sisyphus, an anthropomorphic beetle with no real backstory, and Ray Fillet, who was unknown to most outside of an action figure and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. Both 16-bit versions of the game had Karai as the final boss, a character who was still pretty new to the Mirage Comics who still languished in obscurity until 2003 when she finally showed up in an animated adaption.
    • TMNT fighting games have this as "par for the course". TMNT Mutant Melee had a teenage Hun (seen only in flashbacks), Summer and Winter outfits for Casey Jones and April (they were only costumes, but they had their own character slots), Gold Shredder (meant to be a One-Winged Angel for Shredder), Sleeg (an alien that the Turtles met in the Triceraton prison that barely had any screentime at all), and MONSTER. Don't remember the Turtles palling around or fighting a character like this? That's because they DIDN'T. He showed up as the antagonist of a horror movie Michelangelo was watching. Yes, his only appearance prior was in a Show Within a Show, appearing only for a few seconds in ONE episode.
  • Masahiro Sakurai has gone out of his way to include at least a few in every Super Smash Bros.:
    • Smash 64
      • In the first game, Ness from cult classic EarthBound.
      • Captain Falcon seemed a strange choice at the time of the first game, as he is from racing series F-Zero, instead of a platformer. At least Star Fox 64 has a secret on-foot mode that let Fox McCloud out of the cockpit.
    • Melee
      • The Ice Climbers appearing in Super Smash Bros. Melee, who had previously only ever existed in a single arcade/NES title and were only added to the roster for their gameplay potential.
      • Mr. Game & Watch wasn't even a distinct character before Melee, and while his home series was significant to Nintendo's history, it is relatively unknown to those growing up after the 80's.
      • The situation that named Marth Debuted in Smash Bros.; Marth might have seemed more reasonable to Japanese gamers, but the series he hailed from had never been released outside of Japan prior to Super Smash Bros. Melee.
      • Roy made his character debut in Melee. Fire Emblem Sealed Sword came out a few months later. Even the Japanese were surprised. People were also shocked when in Smash for 3DS/WiiU he returned as a DLC character.
      • In Adventure Mode in Melee, Metal Mario's not much of a surprise, as he's also in the original. But after you've unlocked Luigi, you find yourself fighting Metal Mario and Metal Luigi.
    • Even the mod ProjectM has some unexpected characters:
      • Roy was considered highly unlikely to return until the Clone Engine (a before-then-hypothetical way to add new characters to Brawl instead of replacing existing ones) was finished. Roy (along with Mewtwo) was one of the first characters added this way.
    • Brawl
      • While the idea of having a playable Pokémon Trainer was a somewhat popular choice, many wrote it off as very unlikely to happen. And even within the Trainer's moveset, while Squirtle and Charizard were popular choices, nobody expected Ivysaur, even if it was the most logical counterpart to the other two. Two reasons to make Ivysaur unexpected: 1) It's the middle evolution of a Pokemon. You could see Bulbasaur perhaps or Venusaur at a stretch, but Ivysaur? and 2) It's the first fully quadruped fighter in the series, and the only one in Brawl.
      • Solid Snake was confirmed as the series' first third-party character for Brawl. Sonic the Hedgehog would have been a major example if Snake hadn't been revealed first, since, really, Sonic was the first third-party character anyone would expect to show up.
      • R.O.B. wasn't even an actual character from a game. He was a gaming peripheral from the NES days that had lackluster success.
    • Smash 4 3DS/Wii U was practically a constant stream of these:
      • With the reveal of the fourth game for both the WiiU and the 3DS, it was not very surprising when the Villager from Animal Crossing and Mega Man (Classic) were the first new characters to be revealed. However, later on in the same day, the female trainer from Wii Fit was revealed to much more surprise. Word Of God was that she was chosen because no-one had suggested her.
      • Ensemble Darkhorse Rosalina was announced for Wii U/3DS. The Super Mario Bros. series already had 4 characters announced (not counting those considered to be from their own universes), another one was unexpected, and if one did happen it wasn't expected to be her due to her relative recency compared to other possible characters.
      • Many expected Charizard to return, but not as a standalone character without the Pokémon Trainer.
      • Many didn't see Greninja coming despite being a very popular 6th generation Pokémon since, unlike Lucario, Greninja didn't have a marketing push and hadn't made a proper appearance in the anime by the time of its reveal.
      • Rather than have Chrom as the Fire Emblem Awakening representative, everyone was shocked to see the game would be represented by Robin and Lucina. Chrom spends the trailer face-down defeated and Lucina's intro splash reads "Lucina Wakes Her Blade?!"
      • While everyone knew that other Nintendo games with no fighter/stage reps would be acknowledged via trophies, no one expected that 3rd party games could get trophy only representation. Then a Miiverse update revealed that Rayman would appear in trophy form. It's also the first acknowledgement of a game series developed by a non-Japanese 3rd party developer.
      • No one predicted that damn Duck Hunt Dog (paired up with one of the ducks) scrapping with Mario and friends. This one was so unexpected that it was taken as proof that the leak it was revealed in was fake.
      • Dr. Mario returning for the fourth game, after not appearing in Brawl.
      • At the end of the "50 Facts" Nintendo Direct about Smash for the WiiU, Mewtwo was announced as a returning character, as DLC for spring 2015. While DLC characters had been a highly plausible theory since Nintendo was entering that field, many had written Mewtwo off since he had a trophy in the 3DS version of the game, on top of his absence from Brawl.
      • Lucas and Roy made a return to the roster thanks to DLC too. Like Dr. Mario and Mewtwo they were unexpected thanks to been removed from the main roster.
      • Virtually no one expected Ryu to be in the game after Capcom already had a representative in Mega Man, even when he was leaked before his official reveal.
      • Cloud Strife was announced in November 2015, taking many players by surprise (including those who were wishing to see him included somehow).
      • Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates, which wasn't even released yet outside Japan when he was announced (plus the series had five Fire Emblem representatives). It's Marth Debuted in Smash Bros. all over again.
      • Bayonetta entered the game by winningnote  the Fighter Ballot. Virtually no-one expected she had a chance for being too dark and suggestive a character, but it turned out she was the most popular voted character in Europe, and apparently one of the top five in the US.note 
      • With fandom as big as Smash Bros., it isn't a big surprise that some fangames have playable characters that are out of left-field. Some of them, however are just plain weird. Take Super Smash Battle for instance. The full roster has 8 characters 4 of them are Smash Bros characters who have appeared in the game since day one note  two 3rd party characters that weren't in the games yet, but were still gaming icons. note  The last two? Sponge Bob Square Pants and Garfield, who aren't even video game characters! Its sequel fared slightly better, with choices like Conker, Rayman, Ristar, Crash Bandicoot, and Banjo-Kazooie.
    • Fan game, Super Smash Flash, has a case of Early Installment Weirdness. There are more 3rd party characters than actual Nintendo characters in the game! This includes Lloyd Irving, Naruto, Chrono, Cloud, and Mr. Incredible (?!). Possible the most unexpected characters are two Sonic the Hedgehog Original Characters: Blade and Blue. Its sequal also showed signs of this, with newcomers such as Renji, Sasuke, Rock Lee, Vegeta, Kratos, Riku and three more OCs. The roster has been cut down, with no ocs and only three anime characters (Goku, Naruto, and Ichigo).
  • Capcom's 2D fighting game based on the third part of Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure has a couple. First up is Midler, the user of the Stand named High Priestess: since she is never seen clearly in the manga, author Hirohiko Araki had to create her character design for the game from scratch! There's also the younger version of Joseph, based on his appearance in the second part of the manga. For downplayed examples, Alessi's Stand has the power to physically regress opponents for a short time, but characters other than the main heroes usually become one-shot extras from the manga.
  • Capcom vs. Whatever:
  • Mario Kart:
  • The Mario Party series had a pretty standard roster up until the fifth game which promoted Toad, Boo, and Koopa Kids who had traditionally been board NPCs in the previous games, into playable characters. But it was the seventh installment that really took fans by surprise when Dry Bones of all people was announced as a playable character, which cemented him as a main-stay in most Mario spin-offs during the DS and Wii era.
    • However the one that absolutely no one ever expected was Blooper in Mario Party 8. Fans are still figuring that one out.
    • The tenth game had Spike, which no one really expected either as they had never really been that prominent in the series.
  • Among the new playable characters in Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are Nabbit, who had only made two playable appearances beforehand, Ludwig, Larry, Roy and Wendy, who had previously never been seen without their other siblings, Dry Bones, who, while appearing as a rival in previous Olympics titles, is a nonspecific Mook character, Zavok and Zazz had not made any previous playable appearances before this game, Wave, who had never appeared outside of the Riders series even as a cameo, and Sticks, a character from a completely different continuity than the other Sonic characters.
  • SNK examples include the many Another Striker cameos in The King of Fighters 2000, to such characters as Mars People, Red Arremer and the title character of Athena in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos. Nobody expected a King Of The Monsters character (Cyber Woo) in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum (Shermie could also be one since, despite the pivotal role she played in The King of Fighters '97, the team she represents, the Orochis, are more known as a collective unit than by themselves). Then they show Hwa Jai, who has not been in a proper fighting game since 1991. And in regards of SVC Chaos, Zero was a surprise to begin with, but an even bigger surprise was he was based on his Mega Man Zero incarnation rather than the more popular Mega Man X. Earthquake hadn't appeared in a game in nearly a decade and wasn't particularly popular then. Choi Bounge has been a fixture of The King of Fighters, frequently appearing as a team member of Kim Kaphwan's Korea team, but he's always seen with The Big Guy, Chang Koehan (to the point he was an Assist Character to Chang in Capcom Vs SNK 2). Kasumi Todoh may be as well (as she never really stood out in the cast of any game she's appeared in and her father, Ryuhaku Todoh, did show up in CvS2).
  • Kirby: Triple Deluxe has two surprise bosses! Who are they? Masked Dedede and Dark Meta Knight of all people!
  • Super Robot Wars is not above doing this. In addition to the usual legendary series and hits, any Humongous Mecha that exists in any medium, no matter how obscure it is, has a chance to be included. Xabungle and Zeorymer are two such examples.
    • Prior to Super Robot Wars Judgment, the term "robot" implied only series featuring Humongous Mecha can be included. When Tekkaman Blade and the subsequent Detonator Orgun in Super Robot Wars W and Iczer-One in Super Robot Wars K made their debut into the franchise, this was totally out of the blue, as these series are centered around Powered Armor, not robots. In a sense, this was developer Banpresto's way of letting loose with formula, but also their willingness to redefine what exactly encompasses the terms "robot" and "Mecha".
    • The Super Robot Wars Original Generation series mostly features original cast members from other SRWs. When the bonus chapters of the compilation/Video Game Remake Original Generations was unveiled, it caught everyone by surprise when it included Fighter Roar, a character from another Massively Multiplayer Crossover by Banpresto named The Great Battle series.
    • In the case of Gaiden Game Endless Frontier, its sequel Endless Frontier EXCEED featured Mark Hunter from a more obscure Banpresto Action RPG called Gaia Saver. At this point, anyone from any Banpresto-developed game has the possibility to appear in Original Generation, be it the main series or Spinoffs.
    • Cyber Troopers Virtual-On surprised players when it appeared in Super Robot Wars Alpha 3, mostly because it was a video game series. But that was nothing compared to Super Robot Wars UX and Fei-Yen HD. This version of Fei-Yen had never appeared before in a game. In fact, it's an action figure based off an official piece of artwork. What really pushes it is that it's actually a giant robot version of Miku Hatsune. That's right, a Vocaloid has appeared in Super Robot Wars. Additionally, having the cast of BB Senshi Sangokuden in the same game wasn't entirely expected, either. Yes, the series' visuals are usually Super-Deformed, but this is probably the first time it was ever by default.
    • Played with regarding Gundam AGE in Super Robot Wars BX; despite the series' divisive reception, SRW fans more-or-less anticipated its debut in a future installment. The real question about AGE was how the inter-generational Story Arcs would be used in a crossover, to wit not everyone believed developer Banpresto would skip the first two in favor of third-generation protagonist Kio Asuno.
  • The Dragon Ball games:
    • The Budokai Tenkaichi games have, among others, Grandpa Gohan, Arale Norimaki, General Blue, Frieza Soldier, Appule,note  Spopovich, Babidi, and Nail. The more popular characters are usually expected or asked for, but some of these are just unexpected.
    • The original Budokai trilogy had this, especially Budokai 2 which featured Gokule as an unlockable fusion, and even What If? characters, specifically Tiencha (Tien and Yamcha after doing the Fusion Dance) and 4 different forms for Super Buu after absorbing Tien and Yamcha, Vegeta, Frieza and Cell.
    • The arcade game Dragon Ball Heroes includes a ton of characters first appearing in games (Kid Krillin, Pirate Robot, Bio-Broly, Paragus, Kid Vegeta, Young Nappa, Lord Chilled, GT Satan, GT Goten, Beerus, Whis, Hell Fighter 17, Oceanus Shenron, etc.) as well as new transformations. (Super Saiyan God Goku, SSJ3 Trunks, SSJ3 Future Gohan, GT Gotenks, Super 17 Cell Absorbed, Baby Janemba, etc.).
    • Super Dragon Ball Z takes the cake, featuring Chichi as a playable character.
    • Xenoverse gives us Raspberry, a minor mook who first appeared in episode 59 of the original Z anime, where he got defeated by a Giant Enemy Crab. DLC also gives us Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, who is the star of a minor manga Akira Toriyama made in recent years. On top of being playable, Jaco is also a master who can train you.
  • Melty Blood, a fighting game based on Tsukihime, had Miyako Arima, a character barely mentioned to have existed, and even then not by name. Not to mention Neko-Arc, Mecha-Hisui, and Neko-Arc-Chaos.
  • Soul Series:
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy:
    • People assumed early on Seymour would be in as the villain of Final Fantasy X, but instead Tidus' father Jecht, who was more an Antihero/Antivillain than a real antagonist, got in over Seymour. Square actually decided to explain this one—Seymour had more of a rivalry/connection with Yuna, so having him in the game as the representative villain would have meant there was little going on between Tidus and Seymour story-wise, whereas Jecht provided a deeper father-son/rivalry dynamic.note 
    • In the prequel Dissidia 012, who did we get new from Final Fantasy VIII? Not Seifer, or Rinoa, or even Edea. No, we get Laguna Loire.
  • Nippon Ichi games often have a number of characters from other games appear as cameos, which may fall under this trope. For example, Aramis from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness appears for all of one chapter and isn't even playable in any version of the game. He becomes a Downloadable Content Optional Party Member in Disgaea 3. The strongest Bonus Boss in Zettai Hero Project is Valvoga from Makai Kingdom, whose only other appearance outside those two games were as part of a spell animation in Disgaea 2. Disgaea 4 has announced King Krichevskoy as a Downloadable Content Optional Party Member. However, it's technically Vyers/Mid-Boss, but with his power returned and the antennae grown back out. Still pretty awesome though.
  • Harold the ghoul in Fallout 3. He was the only character that appeared in the three first main Fallout games.
  • The Mascot Fighter Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion includes the channel's usual stable of characters... and Captain Planet, who actually predated the channel by a few years.
  • Nicktoons MLB has five Sponge Bob Square Pants characters (natch): SpongeBob, Patrick, Sandy,... Larry the Lobster and the Flying Dutchman? We also get Gaz, Powdered Toast Man and a Yak. The 3DS version adds Hiro Mightypaw.
  • Touhou:
    • Phantasmagoria of Flower View includes several main and minor characters, three newly introduced ones... and Yuuka Kazami, who hadn't been seen since Mystic Square seven years earlier.
    • Of the three characters to get a story route in Hisoutensoku, Sanae was a main character at that point and Cirno is a major Ensemble Darkhorse, but no-one was expecting Hong Meiling of all people, who had last appeared as a late addition to Immaterial and Missing Power with no story route.
    • Ten Desires had some unusual casting choices: Youmu returned as playable after being ignored for the last three games, the final boss from six games previous returns... as the first boss, Kogasa reappeared as a midboss... it was to the point that people weren't really surprised when Nue showed up as the EX midboss.
    • Hopeless Masquerade, the fighting game set during a religious squabble. The Buddhist representatives are the head monk and... Ichirin, The Generic Girl, rather, say, Shou, the next most important of the group. Meanwhile, the character from Mountain of Faith isn't from the Moriya shrine or even Aya, but Nitori, a fairly minor character unrelated to the conflict. And Subterranean Animism has Koishi, who's entire schtick is not caring about things or being cared about.
    • Impossible Spell Card has Seija Kijin, the Big Bad of the previous game Double Dealing Character. Even though she had already become a fan favorite, very few really expected her to become a playable character, least of all so soon after her introduction.
    • Urban Legend in Limbo has the first playable appearance of Kasen Ibaraki, the star of Wild and Horned Hermit and the first character in Touhou history to debut in an official print work then become playable, as well as well as Fujiwara no Mokou, a fairly minor character in a long-finished plot arc from a game released eleven years earlier.
    • The fangame Mystical Power Plant (the sequel to The Last Comer) managed to pull this off with one particular character, despite having a cast of entirely original characters apart from the player's shot types. The bosses throughout the main story are based on Japanese mythology and/or history, and just fitting in with the Fantasy Kitchen Sink feel of Touhou in general, and all of them seem generally plausible. And then we get to the extra stage, where the boss is a Vocaloid. With a theme to match.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty changed most of its promos to hide the appearance of player character Raiden who unexpectedly replaces Solid Snake. Even the antagonists have no idea who he is during the first half. Due to negative reaction, the character changed for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and his reveal happened at the end of the trailer. Guns of the Patriots itself managed to keep another few characters completely hidden: Big Boss (who did not appear until the start of the credits as the game's final twist), EVA (who is introduced under the alias "Big Mama" to throw off players), and Major Zero (who only appears in the final scene alongside Big Boss).
  • Infected allows you to play as the members of Slipknot along with... the vocalist from Chimaira (who says musicians need to get their own Guitar Hero title to be put in a game?)
  • Pretty much any musician appearing in a non-music game counts as this. Was anybody really expecting the Fight Club video game to have Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit as a playable character?
  • The appearance of Sonic's Classic self in the teaser trailer for Sonic Generations.
  • Mortal Kombat:
  • Kuina and Zeff from One Piece appeared in One Piece: Grand Adventure, the American made sequel to One Piece: Grand Battle.
  • Yugao Uzuki from the Naruto series, appearing in Clash of Ninja Revolution 2, has to be one of the most unexpected characters on this list, appearing in the Manga for less then five panels, showing none of her skills in these panels. She is so unknown that many assumed (and still do assume) she was a character created exclusively for Revolution 2 along with Komachi and Towa, the other exclusive ANBU, despite appearing in the Anime and Manga as mentioned before. It doesn't help that she was unnamed in all English versions of the series up to that date (guidebooks referred to her as a generic female ANBU). Even when she received focus in a filler arc in Shippuden and was called by name for once, people think she was only created for that filler.
  • Among the huge roster of characters in LEGO Star Wars 3 is Galen Marek, also known as Starkiller. While there was a set made to promote The Force Unleashed (the Rogue Shadow set), few could've guessed that Vader's Apprentice would actually be in a LEGO game.
  • In Lego Marvel: Super Heroes, Howard the Duck of all characters shows up in a side mission alongside Vulture. This is lampshaded with their Boss Subtitles: "Vulture and... Howard the Duck?"
  • In Lego Batman 3, your guide through the various Lantern Corps home worlds is The Green Loontern from the episode of Duck Dodgers where Daffy Duck got Hal Jordan's outfit after a mix up at the cleaners.
  • Most of the franchises represented in Lego Dimensions already had Lego tie-in sets released or announced, but it's safe to assume that very few people expected The Wizard of Oz, Doctor Who, and Portal 2 to be represented in the game alongside them.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the roster included such iconic Batman foes as Two-Face, Catwoman, and the Penguin. More of a surprise was Solomon Grundy; while he's had a few run-ins with the Dark Knight, he was a foe of the original Green Lantern, and more commonly takes on various DCU heavy hitters.
  • Sega Superstars:
    • Gilius Thunderhead and Alex Kidd in Sega Superstars Tennis.
    • Opa-Opa, the Bonanza Bros, and Ryo Hazuki in Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing.
    • NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed, as a cross promotional stunt for the game; the car she's driving in the game is planned to be driven by her in future NASCAR races.
    • Also appearing in All Stars Racing Transformed is AGES, who changes between a Dreamcast controller, a Hornet, and an F-14 Tomcat.
    • All Stars Racing Transformed also features racetracks from Panzer Dragoon and Burning Rangers, the latter of which wasn't included on Wikipedia's list of Sega franchises before this game's release.
    • The Team Fortress 2 characters in the Steam release of the game.
  • Capcom vs. SNK 2 with Eagle, a fighter from the first iteration of Street Fighter otherwise not seen in years. There's also Kyosuke Kagami and Hibiki Takane (though they're both still fan-favorites in their own series).
  • Kingdom Hearts is an expert at this. It's a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of all things Square Enix and Disney, which naturally makes it full of surprises.
  • Persona 4:
    • The game got a sequel, not in the form of the much-desired Persona 5 (that came a year later), but in an arcade-style fighting game Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena... with Aigis, Akihiko, and Mitsuru from Persona 3. Then there's Labrys, who was seemingly a new character created from the game...until Americans learned she had actually debuted in a Persona 3 Drama CD released only in Japan.
    • The fighting game itself got a sequel/update called Persona 4 Ultimax: The Ultimate Ultra Suplex Hold (shortened to just Persona 4 Arena Ultimax in other regions), which featured the rest of the Persona 3 cast except for Shinjiro and the main character since they're both dead. Those were expected. What wasn't expected was a couple of the new characters on the Persona 4 side: Rise Kujikawa, your team's Mission Control and designated non-combatant in every other game, and Tohru Adachi, one of the main antagonists of the original game.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • A game of swords, sorcery, dragons, and... the Space Core from Portal 2, as of an official PC-only add-on.
    • Due to the actions of the Akaviri Dragonslayers and their descendant Order, the Blades, Dragons have been rendered nearly completely extinct in Tamriel, with the few survivors not being sighted in thousands of years, leading most to consider them mythical creatures at best. As a result, Dragons have rarely been seen within the Elder Scrolls series... that is until Alduin returns and begins resurrecting the fallen Dragons en-masse.
  • The much-delayed PC version of Renegade Ops features... Gordon Freeman of Half-Life?.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2's first North American DLC features a battle with Lightning, and everyone was expecting that. What they weren't expecting was for Sergeant Amodar to appear... and be a Commando-role monster. On top of that, The Unfought of Final Fantasy XIII, Jihl Nabaat, followed a few months later.
  • Street Fighter's Ryu and Akuma appearing as DLC bosses in Asura's Wrath, a game that isn't even a Fighting Game to begin with; fighting them changes the gameplay into a 2D fighter for the first half of each fight, meters and life gauges and all ala Street Fighter IV, though Asura's bottom gauges are different and more like his own game.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds the six main playable characters are Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike, Faith... and Sid the Dummy. You know, from that one episode in the first season that you totally forgot about. And Joss Whedon is an unlockable character.
  • In a case of Tropes Are Not Good, one of the reasons Robot Wars: Metal Mayhem was so poorly received by fans was because of its bizarre roster choices. It featured robots from Series 3, but Hypno-Disc (who came second), Steg-O-Saw-Us (who came fourth), and Razer (one of the fan favourites) were overlooked. Instead, the game included no less than five machines that had been knocked out in their very first battles, including Crasha Gnasha and Terminal Ferocity, who'd been defeated in ten seconds flat.
  • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale:
  • In the fan-made Mega Man: A Day in the Limelight who is it that poor Snake Man finds himself pitted against? Airman!
  • Paper Mario: Sticker Star was bringing in many characters in the main series and had only a few new, notable characters. Some of the old characters brought in make sense, such as Bowser Jr., Kamek, and Petey Piranha. But there's one odd one: Gooper Blooper, a boss from Super Mario Sunshine. Unlike Petey, who also debuted in Sunshine, Gooper Blooper only made a few cameoes after his debut. He's now the third major boss of the game and a Dance Battler.
  • The Gundam Vs Series had stuck to animated machines and characters. Extreme Vs blew that out of the water when the Crossbones showed up in it, alongside the Astray Red and Blue Frames. Later DLC added the Blue Destiny Unit 01 (only appeared in a video game), Hi-Nu Gundam (a variation of Nu Gundam that only appeared in a novel), and the Xi Gundam (another novel-exclusive). Extreme Vs Full Boost continued the trend, adding the Ex-S Gundam, Ensemble Darkhorse Patrick Colasour, and, of all things, the Zeta Zaku. Extreme Vs Maxi Boost shall start at March 2014, bringing in Penelope (the rival MS of the Xi Gundam) and the Build Strike Gundam (Which in-universe is only a kitbashed model of a mobile suit), as well as variation mobile suits like the Avalanche Exia that have never appeared in anything outside of the MSV books (basically "what-if" mobile suits based on canon ones).
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2 had a fairly ridiculous amount of returning characters from past games, but perhaps most unexpected was Frank Sahwit, the murderer of the first case of the first game who essentially serves as nothing more than a tutorial for the player. The developers admitted they added him mostly because it was the series' 10th anniversary. We also get Penny Nichols, the trading card fangirl from the third case of the first game, a character so obscure that (to the developers) knowing her name is enough to mark a true fan.
    • Dai Gyakuten Saiban is a title that stars Phoenix ancestor who lives in Meiji era Japan, so one would expect a purely Japanese cast created for this game. No one expected the developers getting Public Domain Character Sherlock Holmes involved in the investigations. Or that the staff would reimagine his sidekick Doctor John Waston as an eight-year-old girl genius named Iris Watson. Then it's revealed that only the first case takes place in Japan and the rest of the story in Victorian London, making the appearance of Holmes and Watson less jarring, but considering everyone excepted the entire game to take place in Japan, having it take place in London was a surprise for everyone.
  • RosenkreuzStilette:
    • You get a code that lets you play as Grolla in her own side-game, Rosenkreuzstilette Grollschwert. And what happens when you get to the end of her own stage as her? You meet the original player character, Spiritia, as the boss.
    • Similarly, in Weißsilber, the side-game to Freudenstachel, playing as Pamela in her own stage introduces you to another unexpected face... It's Karl Palesch, Liebea's older brother who was only mentioned a few times in the first game.
  • Few Tomb Raider fans were expecting the return of Natla in Underworld
  • Several in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As Portable: The Gears of Destiny. The first was the announcement of the Materials, who were killed in the first game. Then they announced Yuuno and Alph who fans had assumed the people behind Nanoha had forgotten about around those years. Then the Lieze Twins were announced, who appeared even less than Yuuno and Arf, and aren't exactly high in the popularity lists. The biggest surprise though would have to be the announcement Rynith, since not only was she a Posthumous Character, but she had also never been shown fighting before Gears of Destiny.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle:
    • Shigechi as DLC came right out of nowhere and added yet another Part 4 character to the roster. To further add to the surprise factor, it had previously been made known that a guidebook for the game covered "32 characters + 2 DLC", when 33 of those characters were already known. Needless to say, people were expecting someone a bit more momentous for the final, single character reveal.
    • The same somewhat goes for Fugo. Not only did the man only have one real fight, and thus, not a whole lot to use for a playable appearance, but he pretty much bowed out right at the end of the first half of Part V.
    • Still, there are others definitively more unexpected then him, such as a young lad named BAOH. Baoh's from another manga altogether, but one still made by Araki, that came before Jojo. This has split the fans between those who don't want their Jojo game to include characters from other works, and those who don't really mind.
  • When JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven was announced, many fans were already expecting Part 7's Diego Brando, and Part 2's Rudol von Stroheim was a pleasant surprise, but no one could've expected Part 1's Robert E.O. Speedwagon, a popular character who was nonetheless a non-combatant in most of his appearances in the series.
  • Mario & Luigi:
  • The Warriors Orochi series started out as a crossover between Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. Then, we started to see all-new characters that had nothing to do with the time periods of either game, such as Jeanne D'Arc. Then the ninjas started to arrive...and then Sophitia Alexandra, and...Sterkenberg Cranach?!
  • When it was announced that Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze would be getting a fourth character alongside Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong to be revealed later in 2013, fans were expecting someone like Kiddy Kong or Funky Kong. So people were naturally surprised that it turned out to be Cranky Kong. Also compounded by the fact that Reggie Fils-Aime's VGX appearance was to reveal Cranky rather than the next Zelda game like many anticipated.
  • The defunct Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation took the cake for this, with so many unexpected Guest Fighters (like several characters from a series of Wuxia novels, the title character of Space Sheriff Gavan, Krauser II from Detroit Metal City) that you'd have sworn the developers just grabbed whatever character rights they could snatch up in about ten minutes. Barack Obama was made as a never-released DLC character.
  • Even the 45th Anniversary game, J-Stars Victory Vs had a few. Boa Hancock was added alongside Luffy when Zoro or Sanji would've been anticipated, Luckyman from Tottemo!! Luckyman (who was a support character in the previous crossover), and Taro Yamada from Chinyuki Taro To Yukaina Nakama Tachi. There has never been alot of people outside of Japan who has ever heard of him.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic not only has Revan show up, but as a villain, for double "unexpected" points. Twice over in the leadup to the second expansion, Shadow of Revan. The players are told that the villains of the lead-in material, the "Forged Alliances" arc, belong to a cult called the Revanites, who Imperial players had met way back on Dromund Kaas and dismissed as basically a Brotherhood of Funny Hats (strike one). They're led to believe that the two are using the cult to their own ends so they can conquer the galaxy using an army of cybernetic super-soldiers, as villains are wont to do. But in the last scene of the arc, after the two are dead, their boss — Revan himself — arrives in style to announce that He's Back.
  • Every WWE game usually has this, here are some examples
  • Hyrule Warriors has two of them: Midna and Agitha. The former wasn't as unexpected because of her large role and due to being very popular, but still surprised many people who expected her to be a one-shot character. Agitha, however, came completely out of left field for most players, as she only played a role in a sidequest, and didn't even show any combat abilities whatsoever.
    • No one was really expecting Darunia and Ruto to be playable either, since despite having prominent roles in Ocarina of Time, they were still just NPC characters who hadn't appeared in another game since their debuts.
    • Hyrule Warriors Legends threw fans for an even bigger loop when The King of Hyrule from The Wind Waker was announced as a playable character.
    • There's also Linkle, a female version of Link who was first seen in concept art of the first game and who the developers had originally thought about including but ultimately scrapped. She is now confirmed to be playable in the new game.
  • Doctor Who Legacy:
    • Inverted with the Humble Bundle deal on the game, which came with a code unlocking all of the Doctors except for three. You'd expect the Twelfth (who had only done his regeneration Cliffhanger at that point) to be absent, but the other missing Doctors were 1) Creator's Favorite the Fifth Doctor and 2) overwhelming popularist-favourite the Fourth Doctor. And, to make it worse, while you could buy the Fifth Doctor virtually immediately from the in-game store, you can't buy the Fourth...
    • Many of the "companions" are obvious in-show companions (Rory Williams, Rose Tyler, Sarah Jane Smith) or non-travelling recurring allies generally considered 'companions' by fans (the Brigadier, the Paternosters, Craig) or helpful major characters in the story they're in (Porridge, Tricey). Then we go digging up very, very niche expanded universe companions like Benny, Molly, and Frobisher, as well as bewilderingly obscure minor characters who say a couple of lines in their serial and die (Punishment Medic) and the occasional inanimate object (Bessie).
  • Senran Kagura:
    • While the series has had crossover promotional content in the past, Estival Versus managed to shock fans by featuring guest characters for the first time in the history of the series. Such characters include Ayane from Dead or Alive, and Sonsaku Hakufu, Kan'u Unchou, and Ryofu Housen from Ikki Tousen.
    • Ayame, the shopkeeper from Shinovi Versus, as well as one of the New Hanzo students in New Wave, actually became playable in Estival Versus. Both eastern and western fans didn't see this coming.
  • Star Trek Online did this with its upcoming "Delta Rising" Expansion. Since it was centered in the Delta Quadrant, everyone knew characters from Star Trek: Voyager would be involved. However, they thought it would just be Tim Russ reprising his role as Tuvok and Garrett Wang returning as Harry Kim. No one expected Robert Picardo, Jeri Ryan, and Ethan Philips to reprise their roles as The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Neelix, though!
  • For Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, no-one expected a new character in the form of a young boy permanently affixed to a bed Mini-Mecha named Bedman. While the home console port brought back GG2's Sin, it also had an unexpected curve in Elphelt, an utter cutie-pie with a love for heavy artillery.
  • An extended gameplay trailer for Street Fighter V shows that Charlie, considered dead in-universe since Alpha 3, will return to the series. note 
  • Tendry Dimpalm appears in only one scene in DROD: The City Beneath, making him an unexpected choice for the protagonist of the following Spin-Off.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, unless you read the manual, it's hard to predict Bandit Keith being the leader of the Neo Ghouls.
  • In Arc-V Tag Force Special, almost no one expected Ishizu of all characters to be the 5th tag partner for the DM cast.
  • Pokkén Tournament: Sure, people were expecting that there would be playable Legendary Pokémon, but a lot of people were surprised when the first one confirmed was the quadrupedal Suicune. True, it's a version Legendary, but it didn't stop some people from going: "Wait, what?"
  • DoDonPachi II: Bee Storm features series-traditional True Final Boss Hibachi...in a heavily-depowered form as the game's first boss.
  • Punch Out (Wii) features a large number of returning characters from past games in the series. Then there's Donkey Kong of all characters showing up as a big surprise for those who manage to survive long enough in Mac's Last Stand.
  • Newgrounds Rumble features Samurai Asshole. He only appeared in one game back in 1999 that, even by those standards, was laggy and cluttered. His fighting style in the game reflects this, being a Mighty Glacier in the game.
  • Tekken 7 features Akuma as a playable character. This is especially surprising since he missed the initial roster of Street Fighter V, and unlike Guest Fighters who are usually non-canon; he actually plays a role in the story, serving as The Dragon to Big Bad Kazumi Mishima.
  • Super Mario Maker enables you to play as different characters other than Mario in the Super Mario Bros. 1 setting via the Mystery Mushroom/Mystery Suit power-up, including non-Mario characters such as Link, Samus, Pikachu, and even Marth and Sonic the Hedgehog. With more than a hundred of these bonus characters, a number of them were bound to be this:
    • Waluigi, while he is an Ensemble Darkhorse in the Mario series, took people by pleasant surprise.
    • The eponymous character of Donkey Kong Jr., considering that the character has otherwise seen rare use since early in the GBA era.
    • A mahjong tile. True, mahjong is a popular game in Japan, but a giant walking tile being a playable character in a Mario game turned some heads.
    • Dr. Lobe from Big Brain Academy, of all things. Seriously, did anyone see this coming at all?
    • Ashley from the WarioWare series. Normally, characters from that series don't appear in Mario games, but...
    • Nikki, the Mii character host of Swapnote was met with a good amount of surprise, especially considering that Swapnote is generally considered to have been Screwed by the Network.
    • Mario. No, not just normal Mario, but Mario as he appears in the Super Mario-Kun manga series as part of a Milestone Celebration.
    • Shinya Arino of Game Center EX was this to players outside of Japan who were unfamiliar with the show, as well because of the fact that he is the only Mystery Mushroom character based on a real life person.
  • Even tough he's not playable, HAL 900 makes a small cameo in Lego Dimensions.
  • Killer Instinct Season 3 features a guest character from the Halo series. In a heartbeat, most would guess it would be the Master Chief because he's the mascot of the franchise, or perhaps Locke since he was promoted as the star of the newest game prior to the announcement. It was actually The Arbiter, who hasn't been playable in the main series since Halo 3 (where he was demoted to the co-op character). It also features Rash, which was unexpected as well.
  • Arm Joe, a fighting game based on the musical Les Misérables has every major characters playable... and then there's Ponpon. He's based on the stuffed animal Cosette carried around as a child. There's also an evil robot version of Jean Valjean called Robo Jean.

    Web Original 
  • Suburban Knights:
    • That Dude in the Suede, for being away on a mission for two years prior to filming this, and secondly because he denied being in it in the first place.
    • In universe, everyone's surprised when The Cinema Snob chooses to cosplay Indiana Jones, considering that he's not exactly who one thinks of when the topic is 'fantasy'. Snob justifies it by saying that surviving a nuclear explosion in a fridge counts as fantasy. Likewise, they're surprised that the very tall Handsome Tom chose the very short Willow.
  • Viari's return in the second half of Acquisitions Incorporated season 8 came as a huge surprise to everyone except himself and Chris. Firstly, he was explicitly Put on a Bus and replaced by a new intern in the first game of the season. Secondly, there have never been more than four players at an AI table before (in fact, said table is physically designed for four players)—much less two interns at once. Lastly, the mid-season recap foreshadowed the return of Aeofel, the series' original intern, making no mention of Viari at all.
  • Death Battle occasionally brings in little known and unexpected characters to fight for their lives. Two of the more notable examples being Bucky O'Hare, coming from a fairly obscure comic and cartoon series from the 70's/90's and took on Fox McCloud, and Yang Xiao Long, who is from a web animation series running from 2013 which is growing in popularity but still fairly small and she took on Tifa Lockhart. Yang defeated her more popular opponent. Bucky wasn't so fortunate.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman The Brave And The Bold gave A Day in the Limelight to many C-list DC heroes, some of whom had never had a televised appearance before. Things began getting weird in Batman's Strangest Cases, when the Scooby-Doo gang show up, but the concept wasn't entirely new. Then Space Ghost got his own episode. For reference, after DC acquired the rights to Space Ghost, he was only used in a single short-lived series in 2005, and the character is only otherwise known for his Self-Parody talk show.
  • Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Almost everyone, in-universe and out, believed that he was dead after his bisection in The Phantom Menace. Filoni even said in a Behind the Scenes video that they deliberately made Savage Oppress a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of Maul explicitly so they wouldn't bring him back. Also, Darth Bane, who appears as a vision in "Sacrifice", given that he was from the Old Republic era in the Expanded Universe and therefore dead.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Iroh and Zhao appear in the Spirit World in season two.
    • Book Four's greatest irony is that it is Zaheer who helps Korra to recover from her past traumas. Not to mention the unexpected return of Hiroshi Sato. Apparently, Book Four is full of Heel Face Turns.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Derpy Hooves appearing as Rainbow Dash's replacement in "Rainbow Falls". One of her previous appearances had sparked off a massive controversy and Internet Backdraft that resulted in the character being absent from season three and all the released episodes of season four up to that point, leaving most of the fanbase to assume that she had been removed from the show completely. Compounding the surprise is that aside from one or two extremely vague hints from the staff, none of the show's promotional materials so much as hinted that the character would be returning.
    • Cherry Jubilee of all ponies sits among the princesses and delegates in "Equestria Games".
    • The season 4 finale features Tirek, the Big Bad of the G1 TV special "Rescue at Midnight Castle", as the main antagonist. What makes him so unexpected is that Hasbro had lost the rights to many of their G1 characters (besides Applejack and Spike), and that the showrunners had explicitly avoided using creatures that looked too human (besides that spin-off about humans).
    • Similarly, season 5 has an episode featuring the Smooze, of all creatures. Though unlike Tirek (who is, if possible, even more evil here than he was in the original) the Smooze seems to be comparatively harmless.
  • In the Grand Finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spidey went to an alternate universe where he met Gwen Stacy, who was unexpected because there was no appearance or even mention of any Gwen Stacy in that series until then, her role basically going to pre-Black Cat Felicia Hardy.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man Web Warriors (which airs on Disney XD) an episode featured Jessie Prescott, a character from a Disney Channel live-action show.
  • The addition of Spider-Man to The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! might have caught some viewers by surprise, since he rarely makes guest appearances in other Marvel characters' cartoons. (The previous time he had a speaking role in someone else's show happened over 30 years earlier, in Spider-Woman's animated series.) Additionally, none of the previews or trailers for the second season showed him, at least not before the season began. It seemed even more unexpected for Spidey to become a reserve Avenger.
  • In the animatic preview for the plans for Galactic Kids Next Door released on April 1, 2015, no one expected Lizzie, Numbuh One's former girlfriend, to appear, and certainly not as Numbuh Vine, the alien who sent out the warning about the G:KND's plans.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) has its interpretation of Lord Dregg, who replaced the Shredder as the main antagonist in the last two seasons of the 1987 show. Since not many fans were fond of Dregg, it is surprising that the people behind the Nickelodeon series would even think of bringing him back.
  • In Phineas And Ferb Star Wars, since it was set as their version of A New Hope, no one expected Darth Maul, or at least Ferb as an expy of Darth Maul after being hit with Darthinshmirtz' Sith-inator

Alternative Title(s): The Unexpected